Match Group, which owns Tinder and a number of other dating apps, filed a competition complaint against Google’s Android Play Store, prompting the Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) to launch a preliminary investigation into whether the tech giant is abusing its dominant position, the regulator announced today. The ACM said it had received “a request for action relating the Google Play Store,” but Match Group declined to comment on the substance of their complaint.
“Dating-app developers are supposedly no longer allowed to utilize any payment method other than Google’s.” Furthermore, dating apps say they are no longer authorized to refer to alternative payment methods,” the ACM added in a brief press release. “Match Group, a dating app provider, has urged ACM to investigate whether Google is abusing its dominating position with these methods.” As a result, in response to this request, ACM will begin a preliminary inquiry.”
The agency has declined to comment on the complaint. A Google spokesman told us in a statement: Google, like any other company, charges for its services, but Match Group’s applications are eligible for a 15% discount on digital subscriptions on Google Play, the lowest cost among major app marketplaces. Even if companies don’t want to follow Google Play’s regulations, Android still gives developers a variety of options for delivering their applications to Android users, such as through other Android app stores, directly to consumers via their website, or as consumption-only apps.
The ACM has been at odds with Apple for a long time over its app store payment rules as they apply to local dating apps, leading the regulator to order Apple to allow dating apps to use alternative payment processing services and levy a series of fines after the company failed to comply with the order. By the end of March, the fines had reached the maximum authorized by an accompanying court ruling – €50 million — and the ACM announced it was contemplating a fresh offer from Apple.
According to Reuters, the regulator has determined that Apple’s offer still does not comply with its ruling, and the ACM is formulating a fresh order with new penalty payments, as reported on Monday. The European Commission paid close attention to the enforcement battle between the ACM and Apple, with EVP Margrethe Vestager criticizing Apple for considering whether to pay a fine rather than comply in statements made in February. This is significant because the Commission will be in charge of implementing a new ex ante competition rule against the world’s most powerful digital companies, which is set to take effect later this year throughout the EU.
In March, the European Union’s lawmakers agreed on the final details of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), establishing a regime that will impose a set of operational rules on so-called “internet gatekeepers,” limiting Apple and Google’s ability to micromanage how business users must operate on their app stores. Fines for gatekeeper non-compliance with the rule’s up-front responsibilities might reach 10% of worldwide yearly turnover under the upcoming pan-EU regulation. As a result, DMA enforcements are expected to move more quickly and be more difficult for Big Tech to ignore than typical ‘ex post’ competition actions.